Recently Highwayman Nick Thorburn & his Islands stopped by Daytrotter, committing four songs to tape, including Return To The Sea’s “Where There’s A Will There’s A Whalebone” (sans Subtitle) and “Swans (Life After Death,” along with Arm’s Way’s “The Arm.” As those who’ve seen the band live might suspect, they sound great, and a lot like they do on their respective albums. With that in mind, the real treat is a lovely, previously unreleased cover of Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship.” Yes, Coldplay’s Brian Eno. Nick’s thoughts:
On the car ride over, I said, I wanna do have something unique. I’m a huge fan of Brian Eno and especially that song. It wasn’t something that was planned out. We just jumped in and did in an off-the-cuff sort of way. I think your sound engineer was right that Brian Eno wouldn’t have been opposed to how it sounded. I think it would go along with his oblique strategy. I had to really persuade people to do this. Let’s enjoy this. It doesn’t matter if it’s sloppy. Things can be a little rough around the edges if they have heart.
Take a listen to the session here. Meanwhile, your allegations that the Nick’s verbal shots at Vampire Weekend were simply “a war of words between two trust fund, untalented little shits” made it back to the faraway Islands, and Thorburn offered a rebuttal with respect to at least one of those charges in a Q&A with PaperThinWalls’ Jessica Suarez.
PTW: I’ve read some of the comments you’ve made about Vampire Weekend, and their sound. But also about their money. And I know people have accused you of also being a trust-fund kid.
NICK THORBURN: Man, I did read some of the comments from that. Look, I thought I was doing an interview with some Denver weekly and the guy was kinda getting my goat. He said, “Do I feel like I missed the boat?” And I felt like that was a really rude, confrontational question, so I told him that I didn’t think we missed the boat at all. I said I thought the boat missed us. If I was going to be really arrogant, I’d say we were the boat, but I don’t feel that way. I feel like we were just one of many who were doing that, just maybe a little earlier than some. But the funny thing about that interview was that he got me going a little bit, I was riled up, and I guess I said some shit about Vampire Weekend, but I didn’t mention the fact that they were paying $40,000 a year for their education and playing in a frat-rock band at Columbia, which was a totally valid point to add to their inauthenticity. But I didn’t.
I had done an interview the day before where I mentioned the class thing with them and how Islands is going to wage some sort of class warfare on Vampire Weekend. And then I saw it linked to Stereogum and I saw some comments saying I was some trust-fund kid: “Two rich-kid bands going up against each other. Fuck both of them!” I almost wanted to respond because I come from such the opposite of that bourgeois mentality. It wasn’t hurtful, but it was annoying that someone would try to out me as a trust-fund kid. I couldn’t be further from that. I’m fucking self-made. I fucking made my own keep doing this thing. I got lucky, a certain amount of luck and contingency went into it. It stings when someone says you’re a trust fund-kid when it’s so fucking false. But yeah, just for the record. That’s my rebuttal.
Read more of of Nick’s potent quotables, and listen to a full album stream, at PTW.